Daily Archives: February 21, 2016

Poetry and Performance Enhancing Drugs

Oh, my! Sundays come around so quickly: so much to do and so little time. It’s scary to think I’m half way through the first year of a three year commitment and having so little to show for it apart from an awful lot of reading and an RD1 submission that could still need some work. I haven’t heard that for sure, but a friend had to do a minimal rewrite on some part of his proposal before it was finally accepted. I hadn’t heard anything about mine at all, so I checked it out with Deborah who is the font of all knowledge relating to RD1 and apparently mine is up for discussion by the academic board on Wednesday of this coming week so I should hear soon after that. Fingers crossed it goes through as it stands. By the way, I have heard since that said friend’s proposal has been accepted since he affected the required changes.

On Monday I sent a selection of poems to Jean Sprackland for consideration prior to our meeting to discuss them on March 15th. They were a selection of ‘mother/daughter’ poems, some I have written with the project in mind, some I had written before the project  but which I think can be made to fit; and one or two I’m not sure about until we’ve discussed them. I’m looking forward to that meeting. It might involve cake! My meeting with Angelica has been put back a week to March 1st. That meeting is to discuss my Freud section and gain some forward momentum on writing said section.

The Freud reading has gone on apace. I finished ‘…Everyday Life’ and I’ve now started on a selection of his lectures on various subjects. The first ones I read were very much to do with ‘slips’ so they were reinforcing ‘…Everyday Life’; the ones I’m reading now are around his ‘dream’ theory. I haven’t read ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ yet, so I think this will be a sound introduction. I like the tenor of his lectures: I can see him in a university lecture theatre in that tweed suit he seems to wear in all the photos, with a cane in hand, entertaining a sceptical, medical/scientific audience. I think I would have found his arguments convincing if I’d been in his audience, even if I would have taken issue with the more patriarchal aspects of his theories. He is a remarkably good read.

Lastly, and not directly to do with the PhD, I had a meeting at the Royal Northern College of Music on Wednesday. On the strength of being a current PhD research student, I have been invited to be included in a project to work with a composer from RNCM to write an aria for an opera on the theme of ‘immigration’. The meeting was to secure the pairings of a librettist and a composer. It didn’t get off to a good start as the email I received gave the time of the meeting as 11.00-11.30. When I got there it was to be told that the meeting wasn’t until 12 o’clock. Luckily I had taken my books, so I got a cup of coffee and had an hour’s reading while I waited. There were three poets and five composers in attendance at the meeting: two poets were unable to attend. We had a kind of ‘speed-dating’ session when we moved around the room meeting everyone: we were given art images to discuss to give us something to talk about. Then we had to place our top three preferences for work partners in order and hand them in. The meeting organisers then took ten minutes to pair us off. Thankfully, I got my first choice of composer, Laura. We want to do something around exploitation of migrants, focalised on the exploiter. We are giving ourselves some thinking time over the weekend then the emails will bounce back and forth next week before we eventually meet up to cement our ideas. The next official meeting is on March 17th, a consultation session with RNCM staff and personnel from Music Theatre Wales. I think this could be good even though it is taking time away from ‘real’ PhD stuff. It is the extra-curricular opportunities I have really valued in doing my MA and this current project.

On the poetry front, I sent my Stanza mailing out earlier in the week. I co-ordinate the East Manchester and Tameside Stanza for the Poetry Society. We meet on the last Tuesday of the month in Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar. Our meeting this month is on Tuesday 23rd: check us out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/264023166946510/ This month we are having an anonymous workshop, when poets email me a new, unpolished poem for consideration and feedback from the group. I send the submitted poems out in a single anonymous document so no-one can identify the poet. This gives greater opportunity for honest feedback and criticism. Poets reveal themselves at the end of the evening and say a little bit about their poem.

Yesterday it was our Poets and Players event at the Whitworth Art Gallery. The day started with a fantastic writing workshop led by David Morley. He was very generous with his advice and we came away with lots of ideas in a wodge of handouts. In the comfort break we were asked to ‘hide’ one of our poems somewhere in the gallery, so there must have been some surprised  gallery-goers who found poems incorporated into displays, propped on menus in the cafe or hidden in the pages of books in the gift shop. All harmless fun; and how uplifting to come across a buckshee poem to brighten your day. In the afternoon David Morley was our headine reader, ably supported by Jemma Borg and Tania Hershman. The ‘player’ for this event was Michael Brailey who provided digital music in line with the science theme of the event in honour of Manchester’s European City of Science status. I videoed the afternoon event and those videos will be featured on our website, poetsandplayers.co and on our YouTube channel in the coming week.

Our next Poets and Players workshop and reading event is in March, headlined by Carrie Etter. Check it out here: poetsandplayers.co

I am also administering the online entries for the P&P competition, closing date 29th February. Jackie Kay is our judge this year. You can find details of the competition here: http://poetsandplayers.co/competition/competition-2016/  Get your entries in: what have you got to lose?

Life in all its mundanity goes on. Our trip to Harrogate was lovely. We had a fantastic lunch in Betty’s Tearooms, which involved wine and pudding. We got caught in a bit of a blizzard about 4.00 p.m. but it must have been the ‘right kind of snow’ because it didn’t affect our return train journey at all. Also, our cottage in Pembrokeshire is paid and waiting for us in April. We bought this for each other for Christmas; much nicer idea than slippers, and because I am a part-time insomniac I can take my MacBook and do some work in the wee small hours without it adversely affecting the holiday: win/win.

On the dark side, the Polymyalgia Rheumatica has been flaring this week: stiffness in the legs. This is a fiend of an autoimmune disease about which there is very little known. I’ve been taking a corticosteroid, Prednisolone, for it and its ugly sister, Giant Cell Arteritis, for just over two years now. In January my rheumatologist reduced the dose by 1mg per day: a very small reduction but I suspect my body is adjusting. It’s not too bad though, and I’ll put up with it until I see him again in May. I expect he’ll do more blood tests then and advise accordingly. The thing is, like most people on Prednisolone, I want to be off it; my body doesn’t like it but PMR has other ideas! I’ll do the gym tomorrow: aerobics, so that will tell me how the old legs can cope!

Anyway, another busy week. You see, I don’t have time to be incapacitated by PMR, I’ve much too much to do. So bugger off and leave my autoimmune system alone, whoever, whatever you are.

Here’s a poem to finish off with. It’s one of the poems I have sent to Jean, directly relating to the mother/daughter theme, inspired by the Persephone myth. Enjoy.


Demeter’s Lament

I know I can’t reach her, that winter

will hold her tight like the bed she made


and must lie in. I know she’ll turn away, show him

her cold side, let him know she’s there


under sufferance. I know she’ll come back to me

eventually, in her own time, for short season, now


and then. I know I should be happy with this.

But what I can’t take is how she’ll always come back


with the stench of rotten eggs in her hair,

his foul breath like ice on her neck,


the snail trails of his saliva on her bare skin.

Far worse than all these is how seven


has become her phobia, how she counts in twos

to avoid it, sleeps all day Sundays to know


only six day weeks. She’s stopped eating, fades.

Death seems  to hang out at the edges of her life.


Oh, my and how the juice of pomegranates

can stain her teeth, her lips, her tongue


so no amount of bathing in the Lethe

will bring her back to me untarnished.